It took two adults and two small children more than an hour to collect this flotsam washed up along the Solent within the New Forest National Park.
The collection ended up weighing about 3 Kgs, despite cellophane and a large number of light, fly-away wrappers. The contents included hundreds of tiny pieces of plastic found in the shingle or blown inland.
Sorting the colours brought attention to objects that the Marine Conservation Society would classify under ‘sewage’, ‘fishing’ and ‘litter’, thankfully well washed in seawater.
Plastic straws and cotton bud stalks have thankfully been banned but plastic pollution remains a huge problem. We need to do what we can to turn the tide.
What most distresses me are signs that birds are confusing styrofoam with the natural remains of cephalopods that they peck at in search of calcium.
I sort out the marine rope and fishing tackle, which is stored for a future project.
All this, and broken glass, was collected from a beach where children play. There are serviced, wildlife-proof litter bins, and since it is remote, requiring a parking permit, it is never crowded. After an hour of labour, the litter pickers are rewarded with cool drinks.
For photos of a previous Solent Beach Clean – please click here. You can see which items turn up month after month, such as green ‘sea kisses’ and tampon applicators.
You know something is wrong when you find a high quality holdall in the reedbeds – with a lap top and empty jewellery box inside.
I apologise if you find this distressing. It is distressing. Heartbreaking. I only hope the thief was eventually caught and can appreciate his wrong doing.
This iphone was found further down the river, as part of a separate haul.
Having been chucked in the reedbeds there was no DNA for the police to find.
The stolen laptops and phones were obviously password protected and of no use to the burglar. They could have been left somewhere dry for their owner to reclaim – such as a bus shelter but, no. Instead this jewelry box was chucked in a ditch, easily seen from from the tar road but soon ruined by falling rain.
Why was this open penknife chucked out of a vehicle on a bend coming out of town?
We may have had just one thief who repetitively used the local river as a dump for unwanted stolen items. I would have reported a weapon to the police but by the time I found this, I had spent too much of my life waiting on the 911 line.
This handbag had been stolen some time ago from the owner’s car parked about ten minutes’ drive away. A family of mice had made a warm dry nest in the interior. There were three pairs of spectacles inside but not the necklace that she valued.
I’m always finding abandoned pub glasses, which technically have been stolen from local pubs. I returned this and a few others but glasses can turn up in the middle of nowhere.
I’m told that unopened chocolate bars, cans of larger and half consumed bottles of vodka will probably have been stolen. They lack value to the person who abandoned them – who obviously didn’t want to be caught red-handed.
I once found a brand new – and boxed – microwave oven tucked into the bushes at this location, a quiet spot where you can park:
I once found a single, leather, horse riding chap on a bridge, deciding that it must have fallen off a trailer. It turned out to be part of a haul of riding equipment worth thousands that had been stolen the night before. I contacted the owner but she was distraught and couldn’t use one, single legging.
Plastic straws and cotton bud stalks, along with plastic tampon applicators and shot gun cartridges, have become a sad portrait of society: what the sea sees of us. Why do we come across so many short pieces of PVC rope and fishing net?
I am told these ‘sea kisses’ are the result of trawlers shredding torn nets at sea and dumping this ‘waste’ overboard as it is cheaper and more convenient than bringing it ashore to be buried.
Will this ultimately poison fish and make them inedible?
All these micro-plastics have washed up on the shores of the New Forest National Park. I’ve been trying to make ‘beautiful pictures of horrible things’, as the broadcaster JJ Walsh describes my photographs and framed collages.
Any throw-away plastic rings should be regarded as ‘wildlife crime’ – they strangle too many birds.
Do you know how much lead there is in a tennis ball? Despite the fact they they are not recommended as toys for dogs, huge numbers are washed up on our beaches. I find them all the time.
One of my biggest hates are the plastic things used to sell six-pack drink cans as they easily get stuck around creatures’ necks. This four-pack plastic was washed up near a seabird breeding colony. I won’t even re-cycle one without cutting it apart.
The ear-loops on masks also need to be cut, along with PPE gloves. They are washed up on the shore every day.
And there are always gloves –
Children tend to be good at finding micro-plastics on beaches once they catch the vision. We have begun classifying them by colour or type. This black party-popper was a favourite.
I’m assured that some councils need to check beaches for ‘sharps’ before volunteer litter-pickers are allowed to begin collecting in earnest. Can you spot the needle and syringe here?
Collecting all these tiny pieces takes time and one has to watch out for hazards – but if it is not collected children will no longer be able to play on our beaches. Some parts of the coast have so much broken glass that you can’t pick it up with a dog in tow. It remains sharp for decades where there is no wave action.
The Marine Conservation Society likes to classify sea plastic into Litter, Fishing by-products, and sewage-related finds such as cotton-bud stalks and plastic tampon applicators.
After collecting flotsam, it takes a different mind-set to do the sorting, but it’s important to analyse and report back on what the tide is bringing in.
I began to collect fishing tackle in a crate that was washed up on the Solent. Let me know, in the comments below, if you ever need some of this for a talk on conservation or plastic pollution. I’m giving it away freely.
The very first things I ever found when litter picking in the New Forest National Park were these cut-glass jam pots found in a box that had been left in a rural car park. If they belong to you, and you’d like them back, please let me know.
These days, it is quite common to find discarded camping equipment in wilderness areas. Most items are brand new. I washed these green equipment bags (below) and sent them to an appropriate charity.
All litter pickers report back on finding glasses, usually abandoned near pubs. I must have rescued six or seven. Children’s toys are often left on the beach, but I leave them somewhere where the owners can pick them up or other children can enjoy them.
This silver broach lying in a stollen jewelry box was collected by the police. I also found a lost silver bracelet that I took to our local Police Station.
I have been making a collection of fishing equipment, which presumably could be re-used. Although this lure had lost its hooks, I have four or five like it. Our children were most thrilled when I found a plastic shark.
I am yet to wear them, but these sunglasses were perfectly serviceable after being put through the dish-washer. I have added them to local Lost and Found post on Facebook but have had no takers. Other lost items have been gratefully re-claimed, from a lens caps to expensive trailer parts, and temporary road signs abandoned by contractors.
I found this open penknife on the verge of a road where nobody walks, which was strange. I still wonder if it was flung out of a car window. It’s in my toolbox with a serviceable paintbrush and an expensive project torch I came across later.
While not exactly beautiful this tow-hitch guard was just what a friend of mine needed and made an amusing hostess gift. I found it walking along the pavement on my way to Book Club.
Think of joining the charity Keep Britain Tidy today. You can find more about how they can help here.
Having posted this blog on their site, members replied saying the most beautiful thing they had found litter picking was friendship – new friendships made, old friends litter picking together and fulfillment in forming groups.
Every day we collect aging plastic pollution, cans and glass bottles from Solent shores.
This old glass bottle seems representative of our time of Corona. How long has it been floating around the Solent? Fifty years?
The Litter Pickers of the New Forest found me this 1960s advert for the original bottles with the same cream metal cap.
The Deposit Return Scheme running at the time ensured that most were returned to the manufacturers but I’ve found a couple on the shore. One that held ‘Limeade’ with a 3d deposit return label is selling for £23 on Ebay where it is described as ‘a lovely piece of nostalgia.’
A year later I found this vintage bottle (above) washed up in exactly the same place. How many more will arrive there?
How old would this re-useable Unigate milk bottle be? 1980s? Forty years? They have also become collectors’ items. One like this is valued at £15 on eBay. It was found in these willow trees just above the high tide mark. It might have come over from the Isle of Wight where ‘Milk and More’ ran deliveries.
You can just see a brand new mask in this photo (above) but the bottles and plastic containers were hauled out of bramble bushes a few feet from the sea where they have languished for years.
Here is a photo of the same footpath with more plastic bottles that have blown in, together with old glass bottles the earth seems to be spitting out. The message inside them is clear: this has to stop.
I found a Wellington boot, washed up or discarded, which must have been around for some time. It had a field-mouse living inside so, I left it for now, but there is plenty more like it.
This Walker’s Crips packet, found recently, is 24 years old. I have quite a collection.
Plastic is amazing stuff. My father manufactured products made from PVC. He said that back in the 1970s, his company never considered what would happen when the items they made reached the end of their useful lives.
What date did the squarish plastic milk bottles come in? How many are disposed of daily in the UK alone? How many are recycled? How long does it take for them to decompose? They tend to flake.
How long does it take for a Tescos ‘bag for life’ to deteriorate? I often find them in the Solent.
Fishing line undoubtedly lasts a long time. It can be difficult to spot.
I often find individual plastic pegs. Why is this? Do they fall off boats?
I am thrilled to announce that I have been awarded a certificate as ‘Beach Picker of the Year’ by Litter Pickers of the New Forest, who presented me with a very good bottle of wine. The sea thanked my sons and three year-old helpers by presenting them with a jar of instant coffee and this ball.
The good thing about winter beach cleans is that, instead of picnic litter, you are in with a chance of finding interesting things washed up on the shore. Along with a Tescos’ ‘bag-for-life’, that we filled with pieces of rope, bottles and part of a lobster pot, I found an unopened can of larger, a decent ball and a pristine jar of Nescafe Gold, fully sealed although dated 19/5/19. It must have been floating about in the Solent for some time.
The storms tend to bring in a lot of old plastic. This fishermen’s litter (below) accumulated in the lee of the causeway, out of the wind, but in a nature reserve where otters can be found.
There was a lot to gather. I need to return for more.
PPE is getting everywhere. I’ve been stuffing the masks I find in a jar. I’ve also been picking up aged polystyrene, tampon applicators and tangled PVC rope.
I sometimes use a counter to record how many items I pick up. This purple bucketload (below) contained 140 items but can take more than 260, as many pieces of sea plastic are small. It usually ends up weighing between 3 and 4 Kgs.
How long will will it take for all this to disintegrate? It’s interesting to date elderly rubbish. Crisp packets can easily last 40 years.
These ones were only aged about 8, which was a bit disappointing.
Odd things turn up. This mallet was made with a groove along the top, which I understand is used by riggers. It looks as if it came from a fairground.
After the gales this November, I found an undamaged fluorescent light bulb washed up on the Solent. This is my third. I gather these contain mercury. Is it British? Has it been flung off a ship?
By contrast, this large lobster pot buoy obviously belongs to someone. It’s been registered as missing on Facebook but with no response.
The important thing is to keep going, collecting a little but regularly:
It’s then that your eye catches small pieces like fishing line – which we nearly missed –
This is one of three fishy lures collected recently.
It’s good to record just how much plastic pollution accumulates over time. I found about 3 Kgs of rope and micro plastics after scouring this remote beach that I had cleared a month before.
This pollution is being retrieved from ecologically sensitive areas within the New Forest National Park and British seas. Sadly, all this now has to go into landfill – apart from the ball and sealed jar of coffee. It was just what we needed at home.
I was told the beach was free of litter. It took me ten minutes to fill my builder’s bucket with flotsam. Do people simply zone out sea plastic and litter?
Some was old, but how long have PPE masks like this been floating around the Solent? I found two, along with the usual plastic bottles.
It is interesting to count and categorise what you find. The Marine Conservation Society list: litter, sewage and fishing gear but the reality can be hundreds of small pieces known collectively as micro-plastics.
Picnic litter is inexcusable. With well-designed bins near the gate to the beach there is no excuse for this. Although some plastics, such as the straws and bottle-tops, have floated in on the tide, I found a neatly folded crisp packet tucked into the sea wall. Why?
Cotton bud stalks and plastic tampon applicators classify as ‘sewage’ since they are flushed down the loo – with things too revolting to photograph – and yet this is where our children play.
Fishing line makes up the majority of plastic pollution in the seas. We found an angler’s hook and line as well as commercial netting and floats. The fishhook, lying on the float, caught on my own finger.
We tried digging out one section of PVC rope but failed and had to bury it.
The reward for our work was finding a killer whale, a toy orca.
Since ‘Baby Shark’ has been popular in our family, this made our spirits soar, coming almost as a thank you from the sea.
We returned two days later to find half a bucketful of assorted detritus had either come in on the tide or been missed in earlier searches. Spotting a toy soldier amused me this time. I’ve found a couple of others further along the Solent coastline within the New Forest National Park.
For a list of really weird things found on previous beach cleans, click here
One thing is certain. I can no longer walk along the shore without collecting as much plastic pollution as I can carry. It always proves fun and gives us a sense of purpose higher than ourselves.
The Great British Beach Clean – on from 11th-27th September – is being organized by Keep Britain Tidy – but what does this entail?
For me, the reality means extracting litter posted into prickly blackthorn bushes by those too lazy to take their party rubbish home. It’s usually made up of beer bottles and nitrous oxide canisters, which will never decompose.
I pull on a pair of gloves, grab bucket and barbecue tongs and just get on with picking up the litter. It is, however good to analyse what is found and report findings on social media.
There is so little wave action on Solent shores that broken glass remains a problem for years, endangering paddling children, beloved dogs and wildlife.
On top of this we now have PPE, endless cans and paper cups that have been in people’s mouths, along with clothing and stolen items.
I use a heavy duty bucket, rather than a black plastic bag, so I can cope with broken glass. It can end up containing 260 pieces and weighing more than 6kgs when full. Needing an extra bag is rarely a problem – I find so many.
I go out with friends and family making it fun. Teenagers always have a lot to say about the hazards of #plasticpollution especially when it has travelled a fair distance. Plymouth is 150 miles from the Solent.
The aim is to remove rubbish from sensitive coastal or riverine areas before it can damage the environment.
There are often old lighters, always micro plastics and bottle tops. It is the tiny pieces that take time to collect but small children are good at this.
I go out daily, finding helium ballons, more PPE and endless plastic bottles.
I use tongs and avoid touching the rubbish, even with gloves. It’s cleaner on the shore, since almost everything has been soaking in seawater. Most of this (above) was flotsam. Collecting up litter that others should have taken home (below) is more aggravating but it is makes a huge difference and is a job that has to be done before the wildlife suffers.
Accompanied by my purple bucket, rescue hound, two sons and their small children, I can no longer classify myself as a lone litter-picker, but as Covid-19 restrictions lifted on 4th July we set off through the New Forest to resume collecting things that have been lost or discarded. Most of what we found was scattered around the car park despite the prevalence of litter bins.
5th July, and I collected this from a causeway crossing a tidal river where some drivers think it a good idea to toss what they no longer desire into the water. The evidence suggests they are drink driving, and perhaps not thinking clearly.
I pick up endless car parts and assorted trash whenever I venture out, believing that taking one or two pieces from the river bank has to make a difference. We collected a bucketful collected from a beach on the Solent and another from around a local landmark in the New Forest National Park.
When will people realise what they are doing to the planet? The dog now waits expectantly while I excavate plastic from the sea, often showing me something I’ve missed like a lost shoe. I was extracting three pieces of plastic guttering from the Solent when this photo was taken.